Today’s aviation apps are jam-packed full of so many useful features that it can be challenging to remember when and how to use them all. ForeFlight adds new capabilities and refines the app just about every month, so you should make it part of your routine to keep track of these updates and do some armchair flying with your iPad from time to time. Here are five shortcuts to check out while planning your next flight.
- View Convective Outlooks on the moving map
When viewing the Map screen in ForeFlight you have the option to overlay a wide variety of weather layers on top of the aviation charts. There’s a hidden one here that you may not have realized existed, called the Convective Outlook. While this layer shares the same name as the severe weather forecasts issued by the Storm Prediction Center, the Convective Outlook shown on the map are designed with a completely different purpose.
To view the Convective Outlook, enable the AIR/SIGMET/CWA layer, and verify that only the TS (thunderstorm) filter switch is turned on that bottom of the screen. Depending on the weather activity for the day, you’ll see a combination of yellow and red shapes across the U.S. The red outlines represent Convective Sigmets, surrounding areas of active thunderstorm activity. The yellow outlines depict Convective Outlooks, which as the name suggests, are areas where thunderstorms are expected to form and reach Convective SIGMET criteria over the next 2 to 6 hours.
These are especially useful since they’ll give you advance notice about the possibility of thunderstorm formation well before the first rain drop falls from the sky. There may not be any thunderstorms when you go to depart, but if your proposed route takes you through one of these convective outlook areas in the valid time specified you may see one or more convective SIGMETs issued within this outlook area during your flight.
This product is not currently available over ADS-B or SiriusXM, so make sure to use the ForeFlight Pack feature before each flight to save the latest data in your app so that you can review once up in the air.
2. Transfer your flight planning from the Map to the new Flights section
Most pilot like to begin the flight planning process on the moving maps screen, using the touch planning features to choose the ideal route around special-use airspace, TFRs, terrain and hazardous weather. This will calculate the important big-picture flight planning numbers using your custom aircraft profile, like trip distance, time en route and the fuel required based on current winds.
Once you have this part of your planning firmed up, save yourself a step and transfer this data right to the new Flights section in ForeFlight (formerly called File/Brief) from the route planner to get a weather briefing and file a flight plan. Simply press the “Send-to” button in the lower right corner of the Route Planner window (looks like a box with an up arrow at the top), and a new Flights entry will be created.
You can then use the Navlog, Briefing or Proceed to File shortcut buttons to accomplish these tasks with your planned flight data without having to enter all the same data again.
3. Download the Digital Terminal Procedures Supplement in Documents
When you use the Pack feature to download your IFR charts for an upcoming flight you can rest assured that you’ll have all the approach charts, SIDs/STARs, Obstacle DPs and Takeoff Minimums for the airports along your route of flight. There’s one key piece of data missing though that you still need when flying IFR – the Terminal Procedures Supplement.
Back in the paper chart era, this information was included with each TPP book in the front, so it was tough to leave home without it. In ForeFlight, you’ll need to take one extra step and head over to the Documents section of the app and download the supplement. When in Documents, press the Catalog button at the top right, select the FAA category and you’ll see it available for download towards the top of the list.
Here are a few of the important supplements you’ll find in this resource:
- Inoperative Components or Visual Aids Table – for correcting chart minima when approach or runway lighting is out of service
- Circling approach obstacle protected data – this changed to a larger protected area for many approaches starting in 2012
- Radar approach minima
- Climb/Descent table – this is used to convert vertical path angles and climb gradients to Feet Per Minute (FPM) based on your planned groundspeed
There are also several pages of legends and approach chart symbology, which will make for a good review on your next long cross-country flight.
4. Activate the Pen tool on charts with a long press action
ForeFlight has long offered a chart annotation tool to markup approach plates and taxiway diagrams. But instead of activating the header bar buttons at the top of the Plates section and selecting pen tool, try this shortcut instead: press your finger and hold down on the chart and a shortcut menu will appear with a small row of buttons. You can use these to type with the keyboard, add a note or use the freehand pen tool. It’s a great way to jot down some notes on a chart without having to hunt down the buttons during a busy flight.
5. Always fly with Glide Advisor enabled
The Glide Advisor feature was released back in the spring and provides pilots with critical glide range data in the event of a partial or total loss of engine power. The catch is you have to do a little work in advance and configure it for your airplane’s glide ratio (learn how to do that here), but it can be a big lifesaver.
Equally as important as setting up your airplane profile is to always fly with this feature enabled. If your engine quits you don’t want to waste valuable time poking through menus trying to find the switch (it’s towards the bottom of the moving map settings menu). Rather you’ll want to simply glance down at the blue range ring to quickly assess if an airport or other suitable spot is within gliding distance and turn in that direction while continuing to troubleshoot the emergency.